Suppose the pastor of a large church divided up his flock into two groups, and instead of the normal “whatever they do” routine practiced on Sunday morning, he announced, “Half of you represent blessings, and the other half curses. Now, I’m going to read a list of what you are to do if you want to be blessed, and you on the left say, ‘Amen.’ Then I am going to read a list of what will bring God’s curses on your life, and you on the right say, ‘Amen.’”
Should that be done, I suspect the pastor might need to start inquiring about serving somewhere else. Yet that is exactly what Moses instructed Joshua to do when Israel crossed the Jordan and entered Canaan.
Every time I am in Israel and pass Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal, I think of that tremendous assembly of people with six of the tribes of Israel standing on each mountain–which we would consider more of a hill than actually a mountain. Gerizim represented blessing, and there were assembled Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. Across the small valley was assembled Reuben, Gad, Asher, Dan, Napthali, and Zebulon.
Then the Levites read the law and the people responded appropriately. Saying “Amen” really means, “Yes, let it be so. We agree with this.” And what was worthy of the curse of God? Things such as disrespect for parents, moving a neighbor’s boundary marker, leading a blind man in the wrong direction, having sexual relations with animals, and so forth.
What brought blessings? Obeying the Lord and faithfully following his commands and laws. This resulted in a bountiful harvest, overflowing barns, growing flocks and herds, safety from the enemy and long life, and many children.
Blessings and curses! In a world of computers, miracle drugs, satellite communication, and broken families, do you ever wonder if the blessings and curses which Moses talked about are still in place?
In what some have called the greatest sermon ever preached, Jesus talked about blessing. He began saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:3-6). More than 200 times in the Bible you find where God bestows blessings of one kind or another on individuals.
Everyone likes to be blessed–which translates into positive assets and relationships: a good job, a wonderful wife or husband, healthy, normal kids, enough money to do what you want to do. But about that business of curses? I thought God loved us and only sought to shower down good things on us.
The reality is that the negative results of sinful behavior often play out the reality that God blesses those who bless Him, and the curses of rejecting Him echo back in our broken, dysfunctional lives.
When Joshua split the group into two great masses of people, he announced, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Choose life! It was their decision, and their choice brought with it consequences. A closing thought. Looking back over your life, you may have made some bad decisions that brought great unhappiness. While you can’t unscramble scrambled eggs, you can drive a stake in the ground, and say, “God forgive me, and please turn my life around and smile upon me. I cast myself upon your mercy,” and you will be amazed what will happen. For God is a compassionate and merciful Father. Of that, you can be sure.
Resource reading: Deuteronomy 30:1-20